- Museum number
- Object: The Hope Goblet
Beaker; glass; wide mouth tapering to small base with low kick; enamelled with frieze in colours showing Virgin and Child, two angels, St Peter and St Paul, separated by sprigs; border below and band of inscription above.
- Production date
Diameter: 14 centimetres
Height: 19.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Jones 1990
The Hope Goblet
With spectacular technical skill and artistry, the Muslim cities of Aleppo and Damascus were producing between about 1250 and 1360 enamelled and richly gilded glass, the like of which could not be made in any European centre of glassmaking, not even in Venice. The princely courts and wealthy houses of medieval Europe greatly prized them, and often had them protected and enhanced by setting them in gold or silver-gilt mounts or in ornately decorated leather cases. The close copying of these Islamic glasses, especially the mosque-lamps, was not unknown in the second half of the nineteenth century, but with extraordinary and, as yet, unparalleled audacity the faker of the Hope Goblet has used Western European religious figures (the enthroned Madonna and Child, attendant angels and standing figures of St Peter and St Paul) and a Latin pious inscription in a Gothic script, while at the same time retaining to a large extent the general form of an Islamic goblet.
Nevertheless, the base is exceptional within the context of Middle Eastern glass because it lacks the ubiquitous applied foot-rim, which gave stability to this type of tall, flaring goblet. In its present form the goblet is somewhat impractical and unsafe - and yet it is in perfect condition. Generally known as the Hope Goblet because it first came to light in the collection of Adrian Hope (sold in 1894), it almost immediately became internationally famous, being quoted at first in books and learned articles as one of the rarest and earliest enamelled glasses from Venice - indeed, stylistically attributable to the early Gothic period and therefore pre-dating the first surviving group of undisputed Venetian enamelled and gilded glasses by more than a century. Other experts suggested that it was made by a Syrian craftsman, possibly working in Venice, but more probably at one of the Latin Christian courts in Crusader Palestine ('Outremer') before they fell, one by one, to the Muslim forces between 1265 and 1291. Indeed, it was proposed in 1958 that it was probably made in Syria by an Italian craftsman, perhaps a Venetian, during those turbulent decades. Either way, it was mistakenly associated with the enamelled heraldic glass beaker signed by the 'Magister Aldrevandini' (British Museum) and a small group of similar pieces (mainly excavated in Europe in a fragmentary state), which are today thought to have been made between the late thirteenth and mid-fourteenth centuries, probably in Venice.
Although there must have been an exceptionally well-informed 'mastermind' behind the glassblower who made and decorated the Hope Goblet, the authenticity of which was first questioned only in 1968, this clever fake can be faulted on almost every count. Both the metal of the glass and the palette of the enamels, especially the apple-green and the silver, provide the strongest grounds for suspecting a modern date, whilst an analysis of the decoration reveals inconsistencies in style and date which can only result from the faker's eclectic choice of sources. Furthermore, the Latin inscription † DNIA MATER REGIS ALTISSIMI ORA P PA, contains errors and incorrect letter forms and abbreviations, and is, exceptionally, executed in silver (now oxidised) on a yellowish foundation. This technique and the use of white enamel for faces and hands (with outlines in black) argue against the former attribution of the Hope Goblet, to a Syrian craftsman before 1291. Indeed, it may have been made in England in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
Literature: C. J. Lamm, Oriental glass of medieval date found in Sweden Stockholm 1941, pp. 81-2, pl. XXIII, 2; A. Gasparetto, II Vetro diMurano, Venice 1958, p. 33, fig. 15; H. Tait, 'European: Middle Ages to 1862', in Masterpieces of Glass, London 1968, p. 152, no. 205. n. 6; H. Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, London, 1979, p. 17; H. Tait, 'The "Hope" Glass', in the Papers of the 'Aldrevandini Glass' Symposium of 1988, British Museum (forthcoming).
The article by Krueger and analysis by Freestone et al in Glass Studies 2008 suggests this might be late 18th C or early 19th, not even necessarily a fake. DFT
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Lot 51 at Christie's sale.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number